It was one of those boardroom meetings where the agenda was to grow our business in a transformational way to the next phase. MIS was showing numbers but we were unable to fathom areas which would really propel our company. As a leader, I was looking to get a different perspective on the business trajectory. I started with a candid discussion with an intention to delve into my team’s emotions, their issues and challenges – in a way I started micro-monitoring the business. And it was time to ask the right questions. I proceeded with my sales team – “Team, imagine that we do not have any marketing support, IT or any other external support. What would you do differently to achieve your targets?” I asked the same question to my other teams. The result was path breaking – all the teams started thinking very differently and came up with brilliant ideas. Needless to say, we had our vision charted out clearly to attain overall business growth with the desired outcome.
Several instances like this one helped me realize that the key to driving a successful business with effective leadership is all about micro-monitoring by asking the right questions. As we grow, we keep wondering how to gauge the pulse of the organization? There are various methods to do so like MIS however, my experience says that it might not yield desired results. You would say in MIS numbers will speak for itself. However, I beg to differ. Numbers unfortunately do not have emotions. They can’t tell you the spirit of the business and its people. What is going right or going wrong – can’t be judged by numbers. Therefore, the best and the only way to remain connected with the organization are by asking right questions.
However, it is important to know – What to ask, when to ask and how to ask? How do you exactly micro-monitor with questions?
I have come across some exceptional business leaders, and all of them had one thing in common– the ability to ask the right question in the right manner and at the right time. They knew exactly what to ask – the core motive would be to understand the real scenario, gauge the energies and emotions behind people’s actions – but without any preconceived opinion. The second thing they focused on was how to ask the right question? They never queried to make others feel that as a leader they knew more than their colleagues. Unfortunately, lots of leaders – owing to their position, seniority and laden with knowledge – ask questions with a closed and critical mindset, not to understand one’s point of view but to tell people that they know more. Leaders should refrain from adapting such an approach. The third thing these leaders kept in mind was – when to ask the question? They will ask these question only when the individual is in high spirits and in a positive frame of mind to lead to a fruitful discussion.
I have experienced two sets of leaders who were masters of micro-monitoring and asking the right questions. While, one helped us become execution champs, the other shaped us to think big.
Leader – Set 1: The leader asked questions to help us make things happen on the ground. He asked for pointed information to make us realize that we were floating with a great vision but it was time to translate it to reality. The questions were aimed to help us have facts in place for execution. The moment we started finding the answers – first what and then how? – It lead us to design thinking, great planning, and helped us acquire smart execution skills.
Leader – Set 2: This leader was a great inspirer who asked questions to help us believe that we could achieve better and bigger. How will you make it really big? As we scouted for the answers, we could envision a big picture along with having faith in it. Believability is a very important factor – this only happens when leaders inspire confidence saying that ‘let’s try and work along to achieve the impossible’.
It is vital to note that all these questions were asked not to teach or preach, but they were always asked with a spirit to co-create solutions. With the standalone purpose of prodding teams forward to deliver bigger and better, the leaders focused on people and the right way to engage with them. All of them attained dominance not by prominence but by usefulness. Hence, the mantra is to master the art of asking right questions, in the right manner and at an appropriate time.